The Garden Island
LIHUE — It’s the time of year when people are finding clusters of unweaned kittens tucked away under dumpsters and hidden in thickets all over the island.
And the best thing to do when you lay eyes on those little furballs is nothing.
Don’t touch them. Instead, try to work out their age and whether they’ve actually been abandoned. The mother might just be out hunting.
“If at all possible, leave the cats there and let the mother be there,” said Basil Scott with the Kauai Community Cat Project. “If they’re younger than four weeks, keep an eye on them (where they are at).”
The reasoning behind the no-touch recommendation, Scott explained, is to allow those kittens the five weeks needed to be fully weaned and to get the maximum nutrition from their mother’s milk.
According to both Scott and Penny Cistaro, outgoing executive director of the Kauai Humane Society, caring for unweaned kittens is a major responsibility.
“Kittens under a certain age and weight (four weeks and one pound) are notoriously hard to raise,” Cistaro said. “They’re fragile and the mortality rate is very high. They require 24-hour care and they need to be feed every two to four hours.”
Scott said he’s had personal experience caring for very young kittens.
“We’ve had kittens a week (old) and younger and you have to be up to feed in the middle of the night every three hours,” Scott said. “It’s really tough.”
Once the mother has weaned the kittens and they’ve reached about eight weeks old, or two pounds, they’re eating solid food. They also are ready to be spayed or neutered.
That’s when stray kittens can be trapped, spayed and neutered, and either adopted into homes, or released back into their wild colony.
When cats choose to have their litters in inconvenient locations or those babies are abandoned for whatever reason, it’s still important to determine their age, weight and general condition.
After that, the next question to ponder is: Will you foster these kittens?
Because that’s the first question you’ll be asked by any of the entities that you call to report the litter.
There are several shelters and individuals that will take kittens, or help find people that will be able to take on the challenge of newborn felines.
“One option is to call us,” Scott said. “We have our limits, but we have resources.”
Kauai Community Cat Project, Kauai Animal Welfare Society and Tanya’s Animal Rescue all work to help find homes for discovered kittens without euthanizing them.
KHS will provide information if you choose to keep the kittens and foster them yourself, which is what all of the animal rescue groups on the island recommend.
“The best thing is if people can take them home themselves,” Scott said. “There’s only so much we can do and our whole deal is to try to leverage the compassion of the community and put them into the adoption channel.”
If you find a group of abandoned kittens, call:
Kauai Community Cat Project: (808) 634-4890
Tanya’s Animal Rescue: (808) 482-0884
Kauai Animal Welfare Society: contact via email at kaws4paws.org, or via Facebook at Kauai Animal Welfare Society.